In the 2014-15 college basketball season, the Auburn Tigers will not make the 2015 NCAA tournament. They will not finish in the top eight of the SEC. They will not have close games against Kentucky or Florida. They might not even make it to .500 on the season.
However, Bruce Pearl will have this team firing on all cylinders, and more importantly, show Auburn basketball fans hope for the future.
Auburn lost arguably their best player over the past few seasons, Chris Denson, but will retain their explosive transfer from Virginia, K.T. Harrell. Harrell should be able to take control of this team offensively and could easily begin the season averaging 20-plus points a game. Add his scoring ability with the potential development of incoming 7-foot-1 freshman center Trayvon Reed, and this team could be extremely dangerous down the stretch.
In non-conference play, the Tigers face several difficult opponents in MTSU, Xavier, Clemson, Tulsa and Colorado, but no real elite teams. They should struggle on the road, but expect nothing but victories over the weak opposition they have scheduled for home.
When it comes to conference play, Auburn only plays the expected top four teams in the SEC once each. Ole Miss, Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky all should win against the Tigers, but four losses against clearly stronger opposition shouldn’t so much to derail any momentum Auburn gains this season.
I don’t see a scenario in which the Tigers go to the 2015 NCAA tournament, but I expect them to win a game or two that they are not supposed to and keep another few SEC teams out of the tournament. With everything pointing to a positive future with Pearl at the helm of the Tigers’ basketball program, another mediocre season should be acceptable.